From the Wonk Room.
In a townhall meeting yesterday in Orlando, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was asked if he supported an end to the economically and ecologically destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. His reply:
Mountaintop removal is decimating Appalachia — 25 percent of Wise County’s historic mountain ranges have been destroyed forever.
McCain couldn’t let well enough alone. He then incoherently continued, “I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the behavior of the coal companies. They are doing a much better job.”
McCain’s answer may have been influenced by the many coal lobbyists running his campaign, like Frank Donatelli (Dominion Resources), Jerry Kilgore (Alpha Natural Resources), and Nancy Pfotenhauer (Koch Industries). In the past eight years, the use of mountaintop removal — destructively blowing up mountain peaks to reach coal seams using as few workers as possible — has steadily risen. Coal companies are making record profits by exploiting workers and raping the land at an ever faster clip. Here are just a few of the crimes and misbehavior of King Coal in recent years:
Massey Energy, The Largest Coal Company In Appalachia, Has A Horrendous Labor, Safety, and Environmental Record. Between 1997 and 2006 there were 12 fatalities at Massey mines. Less than 4% of Massey’s workforce is unionized. An EPA suit for $2.4 billion worth of fines for thousands of Clean Water Act violations, including a 300 million gallon coal slurry flood, was settled in January 2008 for $20 million. Former Massey executives hold top regulatory positions in the Bush Administration. [RAN; Gristmill, 12/19/07]
Massey’s Corrupt Judges Overturn $76 Million Verdict. Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship spent millions to install corrupt judges on the West Virginia Supreme Court, even sharing Monte Carlo vacations. In April, the Supreme Court overturned a $76 million verdict against Massey, with Brent Benjamin, on whose election Blankenship spent $3.5 million, casting the deciding vote. [Gristmill, 4/5/08]
Utah Coal Company Sues To Prevent Voter Oversight Of Power Plants. “Attorneys for a power company are suing to remove a ballot initiative in Sevier County that could stand in the way of a new coal-fired power plant. Proposition 1 would require voter approval before the county can issue a ‘conditional-use’ permit for facilities like a power plant. It would also revoke permits already approved for construction of a power plant.” [AP, 9/1/08]
‘Reckless Disregard For Safety’ Led To Deadly Crandall Canyon Disaster. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration asked for a criminal investigation into the August 2007 Crandall Canyon coal mining disaster, which killed nine men. MSHA official Richard E. Stickler said, “Through its investigation of the tragic accidents last year at Crandall Canyon, MSHA determined that the operator and its engineering consultants demonstrated reckless disregard for safety.” [MSHA, 9/3/08; Mineweb, 9/4/08]
Peabody Coal Bankrolling ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’ Propaganda. Peabody Energy, the largest coal company in the world, is the largest corporate backer of American Solutions for Winning the Future, Newt Gingrich’s 527 corporation selling the false “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign to block progressive energy solutions. [Wonk Room, 7/30/08]
So what is the “much better job” that McCain claims the coal companies are now doing? The only act King Coal has cleaned up is their propaganda campaign to sell “clean coal” — joining Big Oil to spend $2 million a day to promote their agenda of continuing to dig America deeper into the pollution pit.
See extended video from Progressive Accountability.